An early start and we bid good-bye to quaint and interesting Bruges and we are off for Brussels. We pass through fine farming communities all the way. The Belgians are such a plucky little nation and everywhere the women were out working with the men, doing their best to help bring their fields under cultivation. At one place we saw them ploughing with dogs, another, a women and man were drawing the plow, another, a woman driving a cow and she was standing on a harrow, trying to get the ground ready for planting. We reached Brussels at 11-30 and everybody was so hungry. We seem to be always hungry and ready for our meals.
After lunch we were taken in Victoria’s for a drive over the city, and shown the King’s palace, the government buildings, the wonderful government square, said to be the finest in the world, and we noticed one building built in 1468.
We found Brussels to be a small Paris, and realized that it was historic ground. Less than an hour’s drive away, was fought the great battle of Waterloo. And there came to mind the poem we had read at school so many times in our childhood, little dreaming that we would ever see the place.
“There was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgium’s Capital had gathered there
Her beauty and her chivalry and bright
The lamps shone o’er fair women and brave men.”
In this hall of justice (?) Edith Cavell was tried before a German military court and received her death sentence. Just outside the city the Germans carried out the sentence and that shot echoed round the world. We saw a monument erected to her memory in the heart of London.
Brussels is also noted for the publication of a little paper known as Free Belgium during the war. Sometimes 20000 copies were printed caricaturing German officers and giving the true condition of things to the Belgian people. The paper announced it was printed in a “cave moved by an automobile.” They were driven from place to place hunted by German spies, but never caught, although a big price was on their heads. In one instance the copy was printed upon silk paper and it was carried in a hollow cane.
We visited the stores and noted that they place over the door the nature of the goods they sell. One store that sold things for Expectant mothers, had the sign “Mother Love” over the door. Another that carried goods to meet the needs of travelers was named “For the Departure.”
We noted their way of counting time. Instead of counting from 1 to 12 as we do, they count from 1 to 24, thus after 12 o’clock it came to 14-20,or 16-30 or 18-40 etc., etc.
We had met the Baroness DeLavalage, Pres. of Belgium’s W.C.T.U. some years ago in Brooklyn and again in London and we remembered how she said that in her country there was one saloon for every 38 people and how the people sat at little tables in the street and drank their beer, but it had to be seen to be fully understood.
Before the war they had a 100 members in Belgium and the Baroness and her sister were conducting 5 Restaurants without alcohol or drinks, and carrying on several of our departments. While the war changed everything it really gave them some advanced legislation. They have Scientific temperance taught in their schools (by law) usually by dictation of the teachers, and temperance books in the libraries. They have a Temperance League much like France.
Cardinal Mercier, who recently visited America is an advocate of total abstinence and urges protection of all races. Ten years ago when Belgium seemed to realize her place in civilization, and forbade the importation and manufacture of alcohol in the Congo, Cardinal Mercier protested that the doors at home were left wide open and added - “Is the soul of a white man worth less than that of a black man?” We remember in the same year a big temperance demonstration in Brussels attended by 5000 persons when the King was present, and Cardinal Mercier delivered a strong address urging total abstinence, but as yet it has not made much progress in Belgium.
The priests in Belgium wear long black robes and flat hats, some of them have shaved spots on their heads, others go barefoot, with a sandal strapped on the feet, all of which I suppose is meant to denote humility or designate the orders to which they belong.
They with others sit at the little tables in the street and drink beer and eat cakes - they occupy all the sidewalk and pedestrians use the street. Two priests in their church robes, sat in the Winter Garden of our hotel in Brussels and openly smoked and drank.